‘We have loaded the weather dice:’ Climate change linked to B.C.'s heat wave | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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‘We have loaded the weather dice:’ Climate change linked to B.C.'s heat wave

FILE PHOTO - Kamloops
June 27, 2021 - 3:30 PM

A UBC climate expert says there is “absolutely” a link between B.C.’s current extreme weather temperatures and climate change.

“We have loaded the weather dice by putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It makes the likelihood of heat waves so much greater; sort of in the way cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, we know climate change causes more heat waves,” Simon Donner, a climate professor at UBC, said.

“Your doctor can’t tell you this is the cigarette that is causing lung cancer, but it’s certain if you keep smoking, your odds go up and that’s what’s happening with the climate.”

This is the type of event scientists have been saying for years will become more common because of climate change, he said.

“It’s so early in the year for this type of heat.”

Forecasts across the Thompson Okanagan are calling for hotter than 40 C going into the weekend and next week. Environment Canada currently has a heat warning in effect, and Doug Lundquist, meteorologist with Environment Canada, said there’s a chance an all-time high temperature record for Canada will be broken somewhere in B.C. next week.

“Usually temperature records are just slightly broken. Usually, it’s like a photo finish, you know like a 100-metre dash. This heat wave is like Usain Bolt, we’re talking about breaking temperature records this weekend by 2 C,” Donner said.

The forecast in Kamloops is also 15 C hotter than normal, “so this really is unprecedented,” he said.

Until the world significantly reduces greenhouse gases, these types of warming trends will continue. Warmer temperatures also increase both health and wildfire risks in the Interior, he said.

“There are a couple key things in particular for the Okanagan to be worried about, our summers are not just warming, on average the predictions are that they’re going to be a little bit drier and when you combine that with snow melting earlier in the winter… that’s what really increases the threat to agriculture, the water in the soil and obviously the threat of fires,” and the smoke, he said.

Wildfire smoke across Canada has led to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, he said.

B.C. wildfires are only expected to get worse. In a previous interview with iNFOnews UBC forestry professor Lori Daniels and her friend, a researcher from the University of California, visited the Thompson-Okanagan three years ago, and he told her the Okanagan looked like the California of his youth.

READ MORE: What Kamloops, Okanagan can learn from U.S. wildfires

Hotter weather also means ticks could spread lyme disease into B.C. as they die off in colder temperatures and the risk of thunderstorms increase, Donner said.

The Canadian Institute for Climate Choices recently reported climate change will add more than $100 billion a year to Canada's healthcare costs by the mid-century and the effects on health are likely to be heaviest among those who are already disadvantaged.

READ MORE: Climate change health costs to top $100B by mid-century: report

The report draws on some of the latest research to model how a less predictable climate with more extreme events could affect the health of Canadians. It looked at two cases: one in which little is done to curb greenhouse gas emissions and one in which global warming is kept under 2.5 degrees C.

The report considered air quality, new diseases and hotter temperatures.

- With files from The Canadian Press

 


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